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Why California Is Organized Cybercrime's Favorite Target

Why California Is Organized Cybercrime's Favorite Target
"Cyber gangs" most likely conjure up images of black hat hackers trafficking guns and drugs on the deep web, laundering money through cryptocurrencies, or fraudsters stealing your credit card numbers to sell on the black market. This is all true. But there's another realm of cybercrime beyond contraband that has law enforcement wriging its hands: Organize cyber gangs targeting lucrative commercial industries, like the energy sector, oil, finance, and especially, a new report suggests, Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
This afternoon, California Attorney General Kamala Harris presented a detailed report on the growing cybercrime problem in the state, and the stats are pretty grim. California is the top US target for foreign-based cyber gangs, pretty much acrosss the board. It led the country in the number of computer systems hacked or infected by malware, the number of victims of internet crimes, and the amount of money lost to identity fraud. The report called the state a "new frontier" for organized cybercrime.
So who are these digital criminals? It runs the gamut from your stereotypical computer whiz with a low moral bar, to politically charged hacktivist groups or state-sponsored cyber militias exploiting the fact that huge swaths of global commerce have moved online and this digital infrastructure be breached.
The number of breaches jumped 280 percent in the US and 27 percent in California.

The report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime found that computer network breaches in the Golden State are on the rise, "and many originate from organizations based in China, Russia, Romania, and Nigeria, among other countries." The study covered a broad range of transnational organized crime, one part of which included high-tech crimes like online piracy, hacking, and fraud.
What makes California an attractive target is, in a nutshell, money. Criminals will go where the cash is flowing, and California's in the midst of a 21st Century Gold Rush. The state's GDP is about $2 trillion, which makes it the eighth-largest economy in the world, bigger than the whole of Canada and nearly twice the size of New York or Texas. And it's not just the VC-rich tech industry catching cybercriminals' eyes; the monied celebrities populating star-studded Los Angeles also leaves the state vulnerable to identity and intellectual property theft, and Hollywood is a hotbed for online piracy.
Naturally, the attorney general is using the unnerving findings from the research she led to ask for more state money for the Department of Justice, which she heads up. So it's worth taking the statistics, as always, with a grain of salt. But it's no secret that cybercrime is a serious and growing threat to the US, on both the military and economic front—and one the country is still remarkably unprepared to deal with.
California, for its part, seems to be making an effort. In 2011 the state Justice Department launched a new "eCrime" unit to "investigate and presecute technology crime," specifically to prevent identity theft and fraud and protect Californians' right to privacy.
Now Harris wants to expand the unit to crack down harder.
“State and local law enforcement officers are on the front lines of this fight every day," she said in today's news release. "Our response must include sustained funding for their work and strong coordination at all levels of government.”
TOPICS: CyberwarcyberattacksCaliforniahackingpower


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